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Rev. Spence Laycock

It was during the dark winter of 1864, Petersburg , Virginia , the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was now three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare. Late one evening one of Lee's generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event. These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern camps and soon a nervous General Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebration fires. It  happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built. What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both sides of the battle line flames lit up the sky in a celebration of life. No shots fired. No cursing back and forth. No war fought. Only bonfires of light proclaiming good news. 

Good Friday is like that, in the midst of the despair of sin God has caused a great burning light to pierce the darkness and proclaim a celebration of life. The amazing thing is that it not even the life of His Son that He celebrates on Good Friday, it is not some sort of memorial service for Jesus by which we remember His good deeds. No, the celebration of Good Friday that God has in mind is the celebration of your life, the coming into being of your life, the expectation He has of . . .

It would seem that the more important the message the greater the means of advertising it. When the Second World War ended, allied bombers dropped millions upon millions of leaflets into cities, jungles and war zones proclaiming that a peace had been reached and that the war was over. In a similar yet greater way God declared His peace plan to the world on a day which we still call, ‘Palm Sunday’. It was referred to as the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem , the beginning of the Passion Week, yet in reality it was perhaps the greatest case of mistaken identity in the history of mankind. Though the crowds perceived this as the forerunner to an actual triumph of power, nothing could have been further from the truth. They surrounded Jesus that day hailing Him as the new political hero, a national Messiah. Within just a few days they would be calling for the crucifixion of this Jesus, so it was not the triumphal entry they thought it was, and yet… it was very much a triumphal entry in God’s eyes. This was a day that He had planned for since before the world was created. It was on His calendar, it was foreordained, appointed in time to take place and it’s significance was enormous. In the words of a real estate agent it was all about Location, Location, Location. When an agent says that they mean that the setting of a house on a particular street is often more important than if it has new rugs or fresh paint. The location is the . . .

We have looked at the four Biblical views of heaven; Eden ; Hades; the Intermediate Heaven; the New Heaven and New Earth. We recognized that heaven is secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ that had just as far reaching an impact in the scope of redemption as sin did to the fall. We looked at the preparations of God as He has by His word caused the earth to undergo massive change three times already and yet a fourth is about to come. He created the World, He cursed the World, He purged the World with water and He will in days to come purify the World with fire before finally bringing Heaven to Earth, the New heavens and the New earth. Today let’s look at the Transcendence of Heaven and the ‘Recession’ of Hell.

There’s an old Valvoline commercial that went something like this:  “You’re born, you die, in between you work on cars.” Sounds like some form of sagely wisdom doesn’t it, yet it is the exact opposite. It is a statement of unbelief that seems to be saying this life is all there is. It misses the truth that there is not just one world, but three. Consider how the 18th century writer Jonathan Edwards put it:  “There are three worlds. One is this, which is an intermediate world — a world in which good and evil are so mixed together as to be a sure sign that this world is not to continue forever. Another is heaven, a world of love, without any hatred. And the other is hell, a world of hatred, where there is no love…” This present world, where there is such mismatch, is the doorstep into either Heaven or Hell. What is done here has an almost unimaginable . . .

We’ve been talking about heaven over the last weeks and I’d like to continue that today as we take a moment to look at some difficult verses of Scripture in 2 Peter 3. What we are about to read describes a common struggle for many people, likely the majority of the population of Canada struggles with this misconception in one way or another. Let’s read verses 3 and 4 to see this concern:  “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  

The phrase, ‘the promise of His coming’ points to our subject of heaven and the struggle for many is that the evidence of ‘no change’ is stronger than the Scripture’s declarations about heaven. ‘Nothing has changed’, they say, ‘societies and cities still exist, people still work and play, wars and taxes and death… they are all still here. Not only that, but there are so many other worthwhile interests to occupy our attention rather than to try to understand something so mystical as heaven. In fact because you show such interest in this you must be a dreamer, you must not be very realistic, for to believe in . . .

Last week we looked at the four successive views of heaven in the Bible: Paradise; Hades; the Intermediate Heaven; the New Heaven and New Earth. We looked at a few surprising aspects of the intermediate heaven where all the believers in Christ today are after the point of death. Let’s consider again our theme verse for this series… Colossians 3:1-4:  “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

This morning let’s ‘set our minds’ on the wonder of the New Heaven and New Earth. If there is ever a time when you have visualized heaven as a place of familiar faces and human form and the splendor of beautiful structures and the radiance of the Throne of God, the New Heaven and New Earth are probably the closest fulfillment of those thoughts. The idea of what’s in heaven being brought to the face of the earth and both transformed in the process is not new, it is what lays at the heart of the most famous prayer… “Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come (Ultimately referring to the final fulfillment) Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” The prayer that Jesus gave to the disciples appeals to God for a great harmonizing of His will in both places, ultimately fulfilled when… at the time of the . . .

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